In the five days after Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election, the Southern Poverty Law Center recorded more than 400 incidents of “hateful harassment and intimidation” of minorities. The center, which monitors hate speech nationwide, drew on news accounts, direct reports and social media postings to find that many incidents “involved direct references to the Trump campaign and its slogans.”
Other civil rights groups have reported a rash of verbal and physical abuse targeting minorities, including Muslims, blacks, Latinos, Jews, gays, and immigrants, around the country since Nov. 9, the day after the election. Clearly, the surge in hate incidents shows that Trump and his top advisers created a climate in which some supporters feel that they can openly express bigotry, racism and homophobia.
Muslims have suffered the biggest spike in attacks, partly because Trump singled out Islam for criticism throughout the campaign. On Nov. 14, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported that hate crimes against Muslims in 2015 surged to their highest level in more than a decade.
The FBI data showed there were 257 reports of attacks on mosques, assaults and other hate incidents against Muslims in 2015, compared to 154 incidents the previous year – an increase of about 67 percent. It was the highest number of incidents against Muslims recorded since 2001, when more than 480 attacks took place after Sept. 11. (Hate crimes against other groups also increased last year, according to the FBI, with anti-Jewish incidents rising by 9 percent, and anti-black crimes increasing by nearly 8 percent.)
The surge of anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2015 was due to attacks on civilians in the United States and the West, many of which were claimed by supporters of Islamic State and its affiliates, and to the vitriolic tone of the presidential campaign. The rhetoric by Trump and some of his supporters sends a message that Muslim Americans, immigrants and other minority groups pose a danger to America.
It’s unclear whether Trump views these attacks as a serious problem, but so far he has failed to make any substantial move to promote inclusion or to reach out to minority groups rightfully worried about his election. He also offered only a tepid condemnation of post-election abuses. On Nov. 13, during an interview with the CBS news program “60 Minutes,” Trump was asked about reports of his supporters harassing Muslims and other minorities. He responded: “I am so saddened to hear that. And I say, ‘Stop it.’ ”
And Trump has not eased fears with the early top appointments to his administration. The president-elect chose Stephen Bannon, a leader of the so-called “alt-right” movement who has expressed sympathy for white supremacist and neo-Nazi causes, as his chief White House strategist. Trump selected Jeff Sessions, a longtime U.S. senator from